How to buck the system if the community makes a bad unpopular decision?

I ran across a question that was down voted 4 times as not important, but I could see that I did not understand the issue, so I asked clarifying questions. The end result is that we have what I think is a valuable question (and answer) with four down votes because four people did not take the time to try to understand the question. So my question about this question is how to handle the situation. Is there some way to request that a moderator clear the down votes so that this Q&A has an opportunity to be well received?

Assuming the moderator can override a community decision, what happens? By the way and (with what may seem obvious self promotion), shouldn't there be a badge or something for finding these bad decisions? If the site objective is to raise good quality information and reduce bad then reversing a bad decision ought to be encouraged (?)


If as stated by bluefeet, there is no way for moderators to remove such votes, the question becomes should there be such a tool? Or am I just reading this wrong and bad decisions ought to work themselves out by other community members voting?

Take this question as another example. I think it is useful for people to understand this issue clearly but asking the question is itself unpopular. Which creates down votes that in turn discourage the question? I'm new here so I'm just trying to understand the rules how the system works.

  • 6
    Moderators cannot undo or override votes that users make to a questions or answers.
    – Taryn
    Apr 11, 2014 at 15:49
  • 9
    If the users were downvoting an unclear question then they weren't in any way improper, and it's not a bad community decision. Unclear questions should be downvoted. That's why the tooltip says that that you should downvote a question when it's unclear (among a few other things).
    – Servy
    Apr 11, 2014 at 15:53
  • 3
    If you think it's a valid question that shows research, upvote it. If it's been closed, and you think it shouldn't have been (and it fits the scope of the site), cast a re-open vote. No need to get moderators involved, especially since there isn't much they can do in this case. Apr 11, 2014 at 15:58
  • The only way the down-votes can be removed is by the people who gave them in the first place. If the post has been edited the votes can be removed, but this relies on the person noticing the edit. A system to notify down-votes of edits has been suggested and declined.
    – ChrisF Mod
    Apr 11, 2014 at 16:10
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    Re your new edit: voting on meta is different. People vote up suggestions that they like/agree with/contain unicorns and freehand circles, and downvote those they dislike/disagree with. That's one of Facts of Meta. Also: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/44188/…
    – Mat
    Apr 11, 2014 at 16:26
  • 2
    @TommieC. You seem to not understand what a flamewar is. Lots of people disagreeing with you and providing detailed, constructive evidence of why your proposal would be harmful is not flaming.
    – Servy
    Apr 11, 2014 at 16:29
  • @Servy I agree with your sentiment entirely. It may be, though, that Tommie just didn't understand the way voting works here (on Meta) and took it as a form of 'flaming', as opposed to simple disagreement. Apr 11, 2014 at 16:30

3 Answers 3


If as stated by bluefeet, there is no way for moderators to remove such votes, the question becomes should there be such a tool? Or am I just reading this wrong and bad decisions ought to work themselves out by other community members voting?

No, there should not be such a tool.

A note here: sometimes in discussions such as this one people bring up the fraud detection algorithms as evidence that such a tool already exists so they are not proposing anything new. The fact is that the fraud detection algorithms are not currently moderator tools, and nor should they be. These are batch processes automatically applying mathematical formulas, in the aggregate, by detecting voting patterns. These are fine.

The problem is the idea that moderators could on a vote-by-vote basis decide that votes could be invalid. I've said it before and I'm going to say it again: the day that moderators start having a say into whether individual votes are valid or not is the day SE dies. Few people are going to be okay with having their votes second-guessed by moderators, no matter how well-intentioned they are. The fact is that people disagree about what constitutes a good reason for voting up or down. Do you really want so have someone come in and declare your vote invalid because they have different guiding principles than yours?

I don't see any point in me voting on SE sites if a moderator can come in, decide that surely I was mistaken when I put in my vote and then declare it null to reverse the perceived bad decision.

  • 4
    Yes, exactly. And even beyond just votes; Moderators are not here to make value judgments related to the technical accuracy, usefulness, and helpfulness of posts. (Related: My nomination post when I ran for mod didn't focus at all on my question/answer activity or technical knowledge. Because it wasn't at all relevant.) Apr 11, 2014 at 16:11
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    @Andrew'saUnitato Sure, that's why you didn't draw attention to your question/answer activity. Riiight. ;)
    – Servy
    Apr 11, 2014 at 16:19
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    Even in the case of dealing with suspected voting fraud, Shog9 makes great points here about how handing vote invalidation tools to moderators is probably a bad idea: meta.stackexchange.com/a/144053/135615 Apr 11, 2014 at 16:21
  • @BradLarson I agree. Hmm... I see maybe I was not clear in my answer.
    – Louis
    Apr 11, 2014 at 16:27
  • @Louis - I was posting that in support of your answer, because I agree with you. Even for legitimate cases where you might see benefit it invalidating votes, the negatives far outweigh the positives. You and I both don't want moderators to have the ability to selectively invalidate votes on specific posts. Apr 11, 2014 at 16:30
  • @Louis You make a great point here (when you put it in this context), so it seems that the community vote is what decides the real value of the communication.
    – Tommie C.
    Apr 11, 2014 at 16:31
  • @BradLarson Glad to know we're on the same page, :) but when I reread what I wrote it felt that someone who has not really thought about this before might read something I did not mean to say.
    – Louis
    Apr 11, 2014 at 16:36
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    @TommieC. Yep, the community gets to fix what the community messes up. Don't get me wrong. I'm quite sensitive to the issue of votes that could be cast out of ignorance (to take just one example). I tend to be active in some tags that do not get that much traffic. So they don't get many votes from passers-by and just a couple downvotes can give the completely wrong impression to someone just landing on the post but does not thoroughly know the technology yet. It is a problem but we can't solve this problem by creating an even bigger problem.
    – Louis
    Apr 11, 2014 at 16:49
  • @Louis I agree and to be precise I was not intending to imply anything about what should happen, I simply was curious about the process. Your answer helped me understand the implications of the proposition.
    – Tommie C.
    Apr 11, 2014 at 16:52

All (non-fraudulent) votes are legitimate votes

With the exception of voting fraud there is no such thing as an invalid vote; people can vote for whatever reason they see fit (it is a vote after all). As such there is no way a moderator ever would (or could) override those. Further to that: downvoting a question because it's not sufficiently clear is even a conventional reason for downvoting!

Everyone's opinion is equally valid

It's important to remember that the people voting are just like you, and (one can only presume) thought they were right; what you are effectively proposing is that they are wrong but you are right and that their votes should be removed and yours should stay. Phrased like that it is clear that this is not a proposal that could work.

Use your votes if you believe a post is good

Ultimately if the rest of the community think something is bad but you think it's good then use your votes and vote up what you think is good; that's what they are there for.

  • Thanks for helping me with this perspective. I was not concerned with the votes being "invalid," but rather with the communication itself being deemed valuable. My implication was that down votes weigh down the value of a question as voting in general is tied to one's reputation. With enough down votes the question becomes harder to reach those who need to see it most (right?).
    – Tommie C.
    Apr 11, 2014 at 16:34
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    @TommieC To be honest I've found one of the greatest sources of reputation is suprising downvotes; everyone rushes to upvote to counteract them. But you are right, once a post gets (I think) -4 it becomes less visible (no longer on the "interesting" tab) Apr 11, 2014 at 16:36

Simple Fix

I think after reviewing the answers and comments that the best thing to do is just update the question (when one has the ability) and the problem takes care of itself. I just performed edits on the question to clarify it and the issue should right itself (if the edits make the communication valuable).

One Chinese idiom states:

三個臭皮匠,賽過一個諸葛亮 三个臭皮匠,赛过一个诸葛亮 
[san1 ge4 chou4 pi2 jiang5 , sai4 guo4 yi1 ge4 Zhu1 ge3 Liang4] 
lit. three ignorant cobblers add up to a genius (idiom);

referring to collective wisdom:
wisdom of the masses exceeds that of any individual

I accept the given answer although this simple fix would have sufficed.


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